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Thailand Breaks Medical Marijuana Barrier In Southeast Asia

December 26, 2018 9:35 am
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The new year could bring a new medical marijuana market in an unlikely place: Southeast Asia. 

What Happened

Thailand's military-appointed National Legislative Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution in an extra-parliamentary session to amend the Narcotics Act of 1979 to legalize marijuana for medicinal and research purposes, according to Reuters.

Under the earlier Act, marijuana was used only to relieve pain and fatigue. The resolution was adopted by a 166-0 vote, with 13 members abstaining. The country also legalized kratom, a tropical evergreen tree belonging to the coffee family long used in traditional medicines.

The measure requires approval by Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn, according to The New York Times

The year saw several groundbreaking developments globally on the legalization front, with Canada approving the use of recreational marijuana.

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Why It's Important

Thailand's move is the first among nations in Southeast Asia, which tends to have the harshest punishments for drug violations. In some nations such as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, drug offenses carry the death penalty, according to Reuters. 

Malaysia is also exploring the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana.

Thailand now has to resolve issues surrounding patent requests from multinational firms that could lead to them dominating the market and make access to marijuana extracts by domestic patients and researchers tough, Reuters said. 

Recreational marijuana continues to be illegal in Thailand, and possession of 10 kilograms or less of the drug is punishable by five years in prison. 

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